Hugh Lloyd Hughes - Private, Fifty-fourth Battalion: Return To Vimy Tour

Robert Oldfield, a retired dentist from Kingston Ontario, travelled with his friend, Steve Archibald, on our 100th anniversary Return to Vimy Tour in April 2017.   Imagining the single bloodiest day of the war for Canada at the Vimy Commemoration ceremony, on our last day together, Robert and Steve, along with our support team Gilles Aube and Gilles Pelletier, left the large group in a car to find the Commonwealth Cemetery at Barlin (north of Vimy).  Robert was on a very personal mission.  He was on a quest to find the grave of his Great Uncle Hugh L. Hughes.  Hughes was a school principal at Princeton Continuation School in Guelph when the war interrupted his life at age 28.  Robert brought the personal effects he inherited through his family on the tour with him, back to the spot where their rightful owner was laid to rest; a cigarette case, his hat badge and his identity discs.

Robert had in hand, a printed copy of Hughes’ Roll of Service, a summary of his military service: In December 1915 he enlisted in the 71st Battalion. He transferred to the 54th Battalion in England, and reached France in August 1916.  Though he was offered a commission he preferred to remain in the ranks.  Through the autumn of 1916 he served in the Somme campaign.  On March 1st, 1917, he was fatally wounded at Vimy Ridge and succumbed to his injuries five days later.  Buried at Barlin.  A scholarship had been founded in his memory at the Princeton School.

Robert was able to locate his Great Uncle's grave, Visiting the gravestone of my Great Uncle Lloyd Hughes at the Barlin Military cemetary. Robert shared how he "made a shallow trench in front of his grave and placed a poppy, some matches, and the last cigarette that he never had the chance to enjoy in the trench before he was mortally wounded at Vimy. A very special moment for me." It was a rewarding, emotional and personal act of remembrance.  Robert’s Great Uncle Hugh L. Hughes’ sacrifice and service is not forgotten.

Private Hugh Lloyd Hughes

Private Hugh Lloyd Hughes

Identity discs

Identity discs

Robert Oldfield finds his great uncle's grave in Barlin Extension Commonwealth Cemetery

Robert Oldfield finds his great uncle's grave in Barlin Extension Commonwealth Cemetery

Thelus Remembers: Thelus Se Souvient 1917 2017

Two years in the planning with the Thelus Mayor, Bernard Milleville, the Return To Vimy Tour day to join the town of Thelus in commemoration of the rededication of the Artillery Memorial was my favourite experience of the entire tour.  All the artillery members in attendance, active service and retired, were led by piper Colin Norris, as they paraded down the flag festooned main street. While tour members were readying themselves to parade from the Mairie (town hall) to the Artillery Monument, I had the chance to run ahead in the street to take photos.  While I was waiting, townspeople came up to me to say "Merci beaucoup, pour notre liberation".  Two elderly people whose living rooms fronted the street, hand cranked their windows open and stuck their hands out just to hold my hand. They waved, shouted "bonjour", smiled, and were so welcoming.  Thelusians dressed in red and white, waved flags, and passed out chocolates.  During the formal speeches at the monument, in the spring sunshine, the whole town came to acknowledge our visit and remember the fallen.  After the parade, refreshments and desserts were shared.  A photography exhibit of photos, some previously unseen, curated from many family collections and the town archive, from the First World War and between the wars, were on display. Here, the Thelusians chatted with soldiers, and shared their experiences and family stories about the photos.  It was a very special, intimate experience that I won't forget.  Reflecting on the tour as a whole, this was my highlight of all the commemorative events. A celebration of liberation, inspite of the fact that the entire town of Thelus was destroyed 100 years ago. Thelus Remembers 1917 - 2017 Thelus Se Souvient.

Colin Norris leads the parade of gunners along Rue des Artilleurs, Thelus.

Colin Norris leads the parade of gunners along Rue des Artilleurs, Thelus.

Gunners on parade: (left to right) LCol Sonny Hatton, HLCol Steve Gregory, HCol Charles de Kovachich, Maj John Stewart, HCol Dale Murray, LCol Lance Knox, MGen (retd) Stu McDonald, HCol John Irving, Brad Woolven, Scott Wisdahl, LGen (retd) Mike Jeffrey, LCol (retd) Bob Elliott. Photo courtesy of Major Richard Gratton.

Gunners on parade: (left to right) LCol Sonny Hatton, HLCol Steve Gregory, HCol Charles de Kovachich, Maj John Stewart, HCol Dale Murray, LCol Lance Knox, MGen (retd) Stu McDonald, HCol John Irving, Brad Woolven, Scott Wisdahl, LGen (retd) Mike Jeffrey, LCol (retd) Bob Elliott. Photo courtesy of Major Richard Gratton.

Red and white to commemorate and to celebrate.

Red and white to commemorate and to celebrate.

Everybody loves a parade and you get to wear your favourite soccer hat.

Everybody loves a parade and you get to wear your favourite soccer hat.

Inspite of the school holiday, young people attend too.

Inspite of the school holiday, young people attend too.

Everyone in Thelus attends.

Everyone in Thelus attends.

Mayor Bernard Milleville addresses the crowd of Canadians and Thelusians at the Artilley Memorial ceremony.

Mayor Bernard Milleville addresses the crowd of Canadians and Thelusians at the Artilley Memorial ceremony.

Master Bombardier Caron-Corriveau of 5e RALC speaks with local resident of Thelus at the photo exhibit.

Master Bombardier Caron-Corriveau of 5e RALC speaks with local resident of Thelus at the photo exhibit.

Mayor Bernard Milleville and David at the photo exhibit - some extraordinary images I have never seen before from family photo collections and town archive.

Mayor Bernard Milleville and David at the photo exhibit - some extraordinary images I have never seen before from family photo collections and town archive.

Thelusians share stories and connections with Canada.

Thelusians share stories and connections with Canada.

Portes drapeux - flag carriers from Thelus Veterens' Associations participate in the ceremony. 

Portes drapeux - flag carriers from Thelus Veterens' Associations participate in the ceremony. 

Thelusian French veterans of the Algerian war attended and mixed with Canadians guests. Thelus coat of arms can be seen in the background.

Thelusian French veterans of the Algerian war attended and mixed with Canadians guests. Thelus coat of arms can be seen in the background.

Energetic flag waving.

Energetic flag waving.

Home made Canadian flags are waved and poppies adorn parade wear.

Home made Canadian flags are waved and poppies adorn parade wear.

Personal and thoughtful gestures of Remembrance are found everywhere.

Personal and thoughtful gestures of Remembrance are found everywhere.

Thelus Remembers 1917 2017.

Thelus Remembers 1917 2017.

Le Fossile: Our Favourite Restaurant in Lille

One of the many cultural pleasures of travelling on a Fields of Fire Battlefield Tour is the opportunity to discover a wonderful dining experience and new food.  Dave and I are very experienced travellers and have had many memorable meals around the world.  Then we had a meal at Le Fossile, in Lille. Dining should elicit experience and now we eagerly recommend this restaurant to our travel clients.  Our appetizer was extraordinary.  I have just discovered Foie Gras de Canard and while in France, chefs prepare this delight in many creative ways.  Le Fossile serves it with an onion marmalade, the ubiquitous fresh French baguette on a slate plate.  Simple.  Delicious. We had steak as our main and on two visits now, this is cooked to prefection, with a Chanteclerc mushroom sauce, accompanied by a local greens salad and ratatouille.  As I have eaten grass-fed steak in Argentina and Kobe beef in Japan, it takes some doing for a chef to impress me.  It has a robust Scotch collection but that isn't what really got our attention.  Dave sampled his birthday year of their century old Bas Laubade Armagnac collection.  As we were on our Return to Vimy Tour, I scouted out their war years' selection.  The current owner is the friendly, professional grandson of Le Fossile's founder - who liked fossils.  Treat yourself to a meal here and handily it is open at 7PM for early diners - reservations recommended for weekends.  Locals and lucky tourists dine at Le Fossile. 60 Rue Saint-Etienne, 59000 Lille, France; +33 3 20 54 29 82

A warm ambiance greets you as you step into Le Fossile.

A warm ambiance greets you as you step into Le Fossile.

Slices of Foie Gras or  Foie Gras de Canard et ses Oignons Confits du Chef . Simple. Delicious.

Slices of Foie Gras or Foie Gras de Canard et ses Oignons Confits du Chef. Simple. Delicious.

Since 1888, more than a century of Armagnac - enjoy a glass after your dinner.

Since 1888, more than a century of Armagnac - enjoy a glass after your dinner.

Scotch for every taste - blends and single malts top the bar.

Scotch for every taste - blends and single malts top the bar.

From our window table in Le Fossile, we watch a game of petanque underway.

From our window table in Le Fossile, we watch a game of petanque underway.